27 hours, 4 airports and 3 planes after leaving behind the icy wintertime in Copenhagen, I finally checked off another country on my world map. Cambodia became country number 41, and what a marvellous experience it was to touch down at Siem Riep airport. Qatar Airways had decided my bag should rather go to Egypt instead of accompanying me to Cambodia (more on all of that in a subsequent post). So with convenient light paraphernalia, I could (relatively) sail through the airport upon arrival. Which was highly appreciated, since I had the luxury of having a welcoming committee waiting for me at the arrival hall.
I could rant on about the lines at immigration, the ‘no outward expression’ officer behind the counter, the obscure customs waiver and the sheer shortage of pens for filling out waivers, but hey that’s travelling and an entertaining story to tell every time you meet another traveller. What I do need to express is, that the experience of landing at Siem Riep, in the sunset, seeing the sun go down behind the ATR72-500, as I strolled over the tarmac to the arrivals terminal, that was breathtaking. And a clear indication of how much beauty this town and country had to offer.
Successfully through immigration and customs though, other symbols of true beauty awaited. First, the hotel shuttle… Nahh, just kidding. Firstly, my amazing girlfriend Siggy, who flew out before me and who was a beautiful sight for sore eyes. I must admit, that even though it had not been that long, it was sufficient time for me to truly miss her. The second was all because of Siggy too. She had booked us into Viroth’s Hotel, and they sent a vintage Mercedes 220S, in immaculate condition, to pick us up. So although fatigued and travelled out, I had the most incredible time at the airport, and on the way to the hotel. And what a hotel. I’m storing the details for later, but let me say, that there is a reason it got named the world’s best hotel in 2018, on TripAdvisor.
Siem Riep – a city with many faces
You know how sometimes you feel right at home, in a foreign city? Well, Siem Riep did that to me! Already on the drive to the hotel, I could sense that this city possesses the perfect atmosphere. The commotion, the horns blaring, all the small stalls and outlets, the curious people. Everything I cherish in unfamiliar cities. And with the way they greeted us at the hotel, it was hard not to fall in love with everything Siem Riep right there! After some R&R we passed up the TripAdvisor roulette and just wandered off into town in pursuit of sundowners (or actually late night cocktails) and a meal. We discovered this cosy small street cocktail bar and tested the bartender – and we were not dissatisfied. But acknowledging my body crying for better food, than the 5 airplane meals I had digested in the previous 30 hours, we needed to find food – at least for me. And why not just go all in, and experience Siem Rieps notorious Pub Street, since we both enjoy people-watching. Let’s just say we loved it or at least the spirit and the vibrant life.
But we honestly also reflected a lot on the substantial amount of beggars, varying from young children to casualties of the extraordinary amounts of landmines in Cambodia. And even though we recognized we couldn’t help them all, at least we tried to make a difference, and be charitable to the ones we faced. The prostitution part, on the other hand, I will never become used to or condone. Especially not, when it is so excruciatingly public. And that thought troubled me a lot on our way back to the hotel 🙁 Oh, and yeah, the tuk tuk drivers drove me insane – I have never in my life politely said no soooo many times, but well, that’s travelling again, isn’t it? 😉
All in all, the first few hours in Siem Riep were a blast! I fell asleep faster than ever and slept like a baby – ready for several great days in and around Siem Riep, both with the bucket list item number ONE – Angkor Wat, but also with one of my Christmas presents to Siggy – a horseback riding trip around Siem Riep. So stay tuned for more 🙂